Zoosk sold for $255 million

Spark Networks to acquire Zoosk, sees adjusted EBITDA to exceed $50M in 2020

Spark Networks (LOV) announced its entry into a definitive agreement to acquire Zoosk.

Zoosk shareholders will receive $95 million in cash, Stockwinners

The combination will drive a meaningful increase in Spark’s scale, with over one million monthly paying subscribers across the two platforms. Spark expects the transaction to drive meaningful margin expansion in 2020 and beyond.

“Zoosk is one of the strongest dating apps in the North American market, which comprises half of the $5B global online dating opportunity,” said Jeronimo Folgueira, Chief Executive Officer of Spark Networks SE.

“Similarly, North America has been a key strategic market for Spark, and the focal point for our growth initiatives. Our deal with Zoosk creates the second largest online dating platform in North America and the second largest publicly-listed dating company in the world.

Spark buys Zoosk for $255 million, Stockwinners

Over the past 18 months, our management team has successfully integrated acquisitions and developed new brands. As a result of these efforts, our brand portfolio now includes SilverSingles, which continues to exceed our expectations, and the Christian Mingle, Jdate and JSwipe brands, which have all shown significant improvement since they were acquired in late 2017.

Our acquisition of Zoosk is the most transformative deal in our history, and we expect the transaction to immediately strengthen our position in the online dating market. With the increased scale that results from the combination, we see a clear path to profitability improvements and greater opportunity to invest in innovation and growth initiatives that will drive shareholder value.”

With the addition of Zoosk, Spark will more than double in size and the combined business will be considerably more valuable than the two stand-alone entities: Following the completion of its integration plans, Spark expects to drive significant Adjusted EBITDA margin expansion.

In 2020, Spark expects Adjusted EBITDA to exceed $50M. Under the terms of the agreement, Spark will acquire 100% of Zoosk’s shares with a combination of cash and stock valuing the company at approximately $255M based on the closing price of Spark Networks SE stock on March 20.

Spark will issue 12.98M American Depository Shares valued at approximately $150M based on the closing price of Spark Networks SE stock of $11.53 on March 20.

Additionally, Zoosk shareholders will receive net cash consideration of $95M at closing and $10M via a deferred cash payment in December 2020, which will be funded through a new $120M senior secured debt facility.

The transaction is expected to close early in the third quarter of 2019.

LOV closed at $11.90.

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Tribune to buy nineteen stations from Nexstar

Nexstar enters agreements to divest nineteen stations for $1.32B

Nexstar to sell 19 stations, Stockwinners

Nexstar Media Group (NXST) and Tribune Media Company (TRCO) announced that Nexstar has entered into definitive agreements to sell a total of nineteen stations in fifteen markets for an aggregate $1.32B in cash following the acquisition of Tribune Media by Nexstar.

Under the terms of the agreements, TEGNA Inc. (TGNA) will acquire eleven stations in eight markets for $740M and The E.W. Scripps Company (SSP) will acquire eight stations in seven markets for $580M.

Separately, Nexstar remains engaged in active negotiations to divest two stations in Indianapolis, Indiana. On December 3, 2018, Nexstar and Tribune Media entered into a definitive merger agreement whereby Nexstar will acquire all outstanding shares of Tribune Media.

Nexstar agrees to acquire Tribune Media, Stockwinners
Nexstar agrees to sell stations from Tribune, Stockwinners

The planned divestiture of nineteen stations reflects Nexstar’s stated intention to divest certain television stations in order to comply with the FCC local and national television ownership rules and to obtain FCC and Department of Justice approval of the proposed Nexstar / Tribune Media transaction.

Nexstar intends to use the net proceeds from the divestitures to fund the Tribune acquisition and to reduce debt.

Given that the net proceeds from the divestitures exceed those initially estimated at the time the transaction was announced, Nexstar now estimates that net leverage at the closing of the transaction will be reduced to approximately 5.1x.

The planned divestiture of the nineteen stations is subject to FCC approval, other regulatory approvals, the closing of the Nexstar / Tribune Media transaction and other customary closing conditions and is expected to be completed on, or about the time of, the closing of the Nexstar / Tribune Media transaction, which is expected later this year.

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Dare Bioscience posts positive data, shares jump

Dare Bioscience announces publication of clinical findings for DARE-VVA1

Dare Bioscience publishes positive data on tamoxifen, Stockwinners

Dare Bioscience (DARE) announced the publication of clinical findings for vaginally-administered tamoxifen in Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics and Gynecology, an international journal for publication of research focused on the development of new therapeutic interventions for obstetrics and gynecology.

Dare’s product candidate, DARE-VVA1, incorporates tamoxifen in a proprietary formulation designed for vaginal delivery.

Dare holds the exclusive worldwide rights to patents issued in the U.S. and Japan covering the use and delivery of DARE-VVA1 for vulvar and vaginal atrophy, or VVA, and a U.S. patent covering composition, use and delivery of DARE-VVA1 for VVA.

The publication reported that a self-administered vaginal suppository containing tamoxifen, dosed daily for one week followed by twice weekly for three months, administered to four healthy postmenopausal women with VVA showed significant improvements in reducing vaginal pH and vaginal dryness without significant systemic absorption of tamoxifen.

This exploratory study demonstrated that tamoxifen was effective when delivered intravaginally for three months in postmenopausal women suffering with VVA.

The median vaginal pH at the time of enrollment was 7.1. At the end of month 3, the median vaginal pH was 5.0. The median paired difference between baseline and month 3 was -2.0, with a range of -2.5 to -1.5.

The self-assessment of vaginal dryness improved between baseline and month 3. Vaginal dryness was rated using a visual analogue scale, or VAS, that ranged from 0 to 10.


Tamoxifen commonly is used as a breast cancer treatment

At baseline, the median vaginal dryness rating was 8.0, with a range of 7.5 to 9.0. At the end of month 3, the median vaginal dryness rating was 3.0, with a range of 2.0 to 3.0. The median change between baseline and month 3 was -5.5.

In addition, systemic exposure was at least an order of magnitude lower following vaginal administration compared with oral tamoxifen. After eight weeks of study treatment, median plasma concentration of tamoxifen was 5.8 ng/ml, with a range of 1.0 to 10.0 ng/ml.

In comparison, after three months of oral administration of 20-mg tamoxifen once daily, the average steady state plasma concentration of tamoxifen is 122 ng/ml, with a range of 71 to 183 ng/ml. VVA is an inflammation of the vaginal epithelium due to the reduction in levels of circulating estrogen. Historically, estrogen-based therapies delivered through creams, rings and tablet supplements have been prescribed for the treatment of VVA symptoms.

However, estrogen-based products can be worrisome for women undergoing treatment for hormone-receptor positive breast cancer and are often contraindicated in such breast cancer patients and in patients with a genetic predisposition or history of familial disease, because of the concern that estrogen use will promote recurrence of disease.

Many breast cancer survivors undergo menopausal symptoms as a direct consequence of cancer treatment.

Breast cancer patients treated with aromatase inhibitors refer to VVA as one of the most unpleasant side effects of treatment. Tamoxifen has been a commonly used treatment for breast cancer and is systemically metabolized to active metabolite 4-hydroxy-N-desmethyl-tamoxifen, otherwise known as endoxifen. In breast tissue, tamoxifen acts as an estrogen antagonist.

In other tissue, including vaginal tissue, tamoxifen has been reported to exert an estrogen-like response on vaginal cytology by a mechanism yet to be understood and not expected based upon its an anti-estrogen activity.

This exploratory study demonstrated that vaginal administration of tamoxifen for three months in postmenopausal women with VVA is a possible new, non-estrogen-based treatment approach.

Dare is currently conducting activities in preparation for future clinical work with DARE-VVA1, its proprietary vaginal formulation of tamoxifen.

If successful, DARE-VVA1 could be the first and only vaginally administered tamoxifen product approved by the FDA for the treatment of VVA in hormone-receptor positive breast cancer patients.

DARE closed at $0.90, last traded at $2.70.

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5G Service coming to Chicago and Minneapolis

Verizon discloses pricing for first 5G mobile service

Verizon brings 5G service to Chicago and Minneapolis, Stockwinners

Verizon (VZ) earlier said it will launch its 5G Ultra Wideband Network in Chicago and Minneapolis on April 11.

To coincide with this launch, Verizon is offering the new 5G moto mod, which is exclusive to Verizon. Beginning March 14, customers anywhere in the U.S. can pre-order the 5G moto mod.

Verizon said: “Select areas of Chicago and Minneapolis will be the first to experience Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband mobile service, and the company has plans to rapidly expand the coverage area.

Last month, Verizon announced that it intends to launch its 5G Ultra Wideband network in more than 30 U.S. cities in 2019.”

It added, “For a limited time, preorder the 5G moto mod for just $50 ($349.99 retail).

5G Antennas are the size of a large pizza, Stockwinners

Verizon postpaid customers with any Verizon unlimited plan, including Go Unlimited, Beyond Unlimited or Above Unlimited, get unlimited 5G data for $10 per month (with the first three months free).

To buy a 5G moto mod, customers must either have an active moto z3 on their account or purchase a moto z3 at the same time as the 5G moto mod.”

What is 5G?

Like the earlier generation 2G, 3G, and 4G mobile networks, 5G networks are digital cellular networks, in which the service area covered by providers is divided into a mosaic of small geographical areas called cells.

 Analog signals representing sounds and images are digitized in the phone, converted by an analog to digital converted transmitted as a stream of bits.

All the 5G wireless devices in a cell communicate by radio waves with a local antenna array and low power automated transceiver(transmitter and receiver) in the cell, over frequency channels assigned by the transceiver from a common pool of frequencies, which are reused in geographically separated cells.

The local antennas are connected with the telephone network and the Internet by a high bandwidth optical fiber or wireless backhaul connection. Like existing cellphones, when a user crosses from one cell to another, their mobile device is automatically “handed off” seamlessly to the antenna in the new cell.

Their major advantage is that 5G networks achieve much higher data rates than previous cellular networks, up to 10 Gbit/s; which is faster than current cable internet, and 100 times faster than the previous cellular technology, 4G LTE.

 Another advantage is lower network latency (faster response time), below 1 ms (millisecond), compared with 30 – 70 ms for 4G.[ Because of the higher data rates, 5G networks will serve not just cellphones but are also envisioned as a general home and office networking provider, competing with wired internet providers like cable. Previous cellular networks provided low data rate internet access suitable for cellphones, but a cell tower could not economically provide enough bandwidth to serve as a general internet provider for home computers.

5G networks achieve these higher data rates by using higher frequency radio waves, in or near the millimeter wave band from 30 to 300 GHz, whereas previous cellular networks used frequencies in the microwave band between 700 MHz and 3 GHz.

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ExxonMobil to increase its Permian Basin output

Exxon Mobil to increase Permian output to 1M barrels per day by 2024

ExxonMobil to increase its Permian Basin output, Stockwinners

ExxonMobil (XOM) said it has revised its Permian Basin growth plans to produce more than 1 million oil-equivalent barrels per day by as early as 2024 – an increase of nearly 80 percent and a significant acceleration of value.

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ExxonMobil expects to make 10% return on its Permian Basin fields at $35 per barrel oil, Stockwinners

The size of the company’s resource base in the Permian is approximately 10 billion oil-equivalent barrels and is likely to grow further as analysis and development activities continue.

ExxonMobil’s investments in the Permian Basin are expected to produce double-digit returns, even at low oil prices.

At a $35 per barrel oil price, for example, Permian production will have an average return of more than 10 percent.

The anticipated increase in production will be supported by further evaluation of ExxonMobil’s Delaware Basin’s increased resource size, infrastructure development plans, and secured capacity to transport oil and gas to ExxonMobil’s Gulf Coast refineries and petrochemical operations through the Wink-to-Webster, Permian Highway and Double E pipelines.

Among the company’s key advantages in the Permian, is its acreage position.

The company has large, contiguous acreage that enables multi-well pads in large development corridors connecting to efficient gathering systems, reducing development costs and accelerating production growth.

ExxonMobil’s scale, financial capacity and technical capabilities enable the company to maximize the value of the resource. ExxonMobil is actively building infrastructure to support volume growth.

Plans include construction at 30 sites to enhance oil and gas processing, water handling and ensure takeaway capacity from the basin. Construction activities include central delivery facilities designed to handle up to 600,000 barrels of oil and 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day and enhanced water-handling capacity through 350 miles of already-constructed pipeline.

The investment plans will also bring great benefits to the local area. ExxonMobil’s expansion in the region will benefit communities in West Texas and southeast New Mexico through billions in property tax revenue, economic development and the creation of high-paying jobs.

ExxonMobil remains one of the most active operators in the Permian Basin and has 48 drilling rigs currently in operation and plans to increase its rig count to approximately 55 by the end of the year.

Increased use of technology, including enhanced subsurface characterization, subsurface modeling and advanced data analytics to support optimization and automation, will help the company reduce costs, improve its development plan and increase resource recovery.

Crude oil is up 5 cents to $56.64 per barrel. XOM last traded at $80.22.

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Kforce Government Solutions sold for $115 million

ManTech to acquire Kforce Government Solutions for $115M

KForce sold for $115 million, Stockwinners

ManTech (MANT) announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Kforce Government Solutions, or KGS, formerly a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kforce (KFRC) for $115M in cash.

Headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, KGS provides technology solutions, transformation management, data management and analytics in support of federal health and defense missions.

KGS has built a legacy of success with its customers particularly within the Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA.

The acquisition adds over 500 employees to the ManTech team. In 2018, KGS generated approximately $98M of revenue and has profitability comparable to ManTech.

The combination will substantially increase ManTech’s footprint at the VA and enable ManTech to deliver services through the VA’s Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology Next Generation, or T4NG, program.

The T4NG program is a 10-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract awarded by the VA Technology Acquisition Center to help the VA transform its information technology programs.

ManTech will fund the acquisition from cash on hand with additional funding from its existing line of credit. ManTech expects the acquisition to be slightly accretive to earnings per share in 2019.

The acquisition is subject to various closing conditions and approvals, including approval under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, and is expected to be completed in March.

David L. Dunkel, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer commented, “Our federal government solutions business has been a meaningful part of our business since our initial government acquisition in 2006. I am immensely proud of the success that our KGS management team has had in growing and positioning this business for continued future success despite the competitive challenges it has faced, given its scale.

We are excited for our KGS management team and associates to join forces with ManTech, which we expect will enhance KGS’s competitive positioning and leverage its deep and long-standing customer relationships to drive further growth. We firmly believe in the strong secular drivers within the commercial technology space and, with this divestiture, virtually all of our revenues are derived from domestic professional and technical staffing services and solutions.”


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Fiat Chrysler to invest $4.5B in Michigan

Fiat Chrysler to invest $4.5B in five existing Michigan plants

FCA (FCAU) would invest $1.6 billion to convert the two plants that comprise the Mack Avenue Engine Complex into the future assembly site for the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee, as well as an all-new three-row full-size Jeep SUV and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models, adding 3,850 new jobs to support production.

The Company intends to start construction of the new Detroit facility by the end of Q2 2019 with the first three-row vehicles expected to roll off the line by the end of 2020, followed by the all-new Grand Cherokee in the first half of 2021.

Also as part of this announcement, the Jefferson North Assembly Plant would receive an investment of $900 million to retool and modernize the facility to build the Dodge Durango and next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee.

FCA expects to create 1,100 new jobs at Jefferson North. The reborn Mack facility would be the first new assembly plant to be built in the city of Detroit in nearly three decades.

In 1991, Jefferson North was the last new assembly plant built in the city.

When complete, Mack would join Jefferson North as the only automotive assembly plants to be located completely within the city limits of Detroit. The Pentastar engines – the 3.6-, 3.2- and 3.0-liter – currently built at Mack would be relocated to the Dundee Engine Plant as part of a $119 million investment. Pentastar production at Mack I would end by Q3 2019.

Mack II has been idle since it ceased production of the 3.7-liter V-6 in September 2012.FCA also confirms the investment at Warren Truck to retool for production of the all-new Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, announced in 2017, along with their electrified counterparts, would increase to $1.5 billion.

The Pentastar Engines currently built at Mack would be relocated to the Dundee Engine Plant, Stockwinners

Production is expected to launch in early 2021. In addition to the new Jeep models, the plant would continue building the Ram 1500 Classic, which is being extended to meet market demand. It is expected that 1,400 new jobs would be added.

As a result of this investment announcement, production of the all-new Ram Heavy Duty will continue at its current location in Saltillo, Mexico.

To support the additional production, the Company’s Warren Stamping (Warren, Michigan) and Sterling Stamping (Sterling Heights, Michigan) plants would receive investments of $245 million and $160 million, respectively, with Sterling Stamping expected to add more than 80 new jobs.


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Spark Therapeutics sold for $4.8 billion

Roche acquires Spark Therapeutics for $114.50 per share, a 122% premium

Spark tumbles on hemophilia study , Stockwinners

Roche acquires Spark Therapeutics for $114.50 per share , Stockwinners

Spark Therapeutics (ONCE) announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement for Roche (RHHBY) to fully acquire Spark Therapeutics at a price of $114.50 per share in an all-cash transaction.

This corresponds to a total equity value of approximately $4.8B on a fully diluted basis, inclusive of approximately $500M of projected net cash expected at close.

The per share price represents a premium of 122% to Spark’s closing price on Feb. 22, 2019. The merger agreement has been unanimously approved by the boards of both Spark and Roche.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Roche will commence a tender offer to acquire all outstanding shares of Spark’s common stock, and Spark will file a recommendation statement containing the unanimous recommendation of the Spark board that Spark shareholders tender their shares to Roche.

Spark Therapeutics will continue its operations in Philadelphia as an independent company within the Roche Group.

The closing of the transaction is expected to take place in Q2 of 2019.

Bernstein analyst Vincent #Chen notes that he has long seen Spark Therapeutics (ONCE) as a takeout candidate in gene therapy after the Wall Street Journal reported Roche (RHHBY) is near acquiring the company for close to $5B.

The analyst thinks the deal makes sense as adding hemophilia gene therapy to Hemlibra sets up Roche as a leader in next-gen non-factor hemophilia drugs, CNS gene therapy pipeline is a good fit for Roche’s growing neuroscience franchise, and as it serves as a cornerstone in establishing Roche as a gene therapy leader, to rival the likes of Novartis (NVS).


Credit Suisse analyst Martin Auster notes that the Wall Street Journal recently reported that Roche (RHHBY) is nearing a deal with Spark Therapeutics (ONCE) for $5B.

The analyst believes the transaction value implies the re-emergence of Spark’s hemophilia A gene therapy program with a competitive profile and substantial value assigned to additional pipeline programs, such as SPK-3006 for Pompe, and the technology platform.

Spark’s acquisition would further strengthen the company’s position in the hemophilia space, he contends. Further, Auster argues that the deal may increase M&A interest among other gene therapy names in his coverage universe, which include BioMarin (BMRN), Sarepta (SRPT), Ultragenyx (RARE), PTC (PTC) and Solid Biosciences (SLDB). He sees particularly strong read-through to Sarepta.


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Multi-Color sold for $2.5 billion

Multi-Color to be acquired by Platinum Equity affiliate for $50 per share in cash

Multi-Color to be acquired by Platinum Equity affiliate for $50 per share in cash, Stockwinners
Multi-Color to be acquired by Platinum Equity affiliate for $50 per share in cash, Stockwinners

Multi-Color Corporation (LABL) announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of Platinum Equity LLC.

Under the terms of the agreement, which has been unanimously approved by Multi-Color Corporation’s Board of Directors, Multi-Color Corporation shareholders will receive $50.00 in cash for each share of common stock they own, in a transaction valued at $2.5B including the assumption of $1.5B of debt.

The cash purchase price represents a premium of approximately 32 percent over Multi-Color Corporation’s 30-day volume weighted average share price prior to January 22, 2019, the last trading day prior to media speculation regarding a potential transaction involving Multi-Color Corporation.

The transaction will be financed through a combination of committed equity financing provided by Platinum Capital Partners IV, L.P., as well as debt financing that has been committed to by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank AG New York Branch, Deutsche Bank AG Cayman Islands Branch and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.

The transaction is expected to be completed by Q3 FY 2019 and is subject to Multi-Color Corporation shareholder approval, regulatory clearances and other customary closing conditions.

Upon the completion of the transaction, Multi-Color Corporation will become a privately held company and shares of Multi-Color Corporation common stock will no longer be listed on any public market.

Constantia Flexibles Holding GmbH and affiliates of Diamond Castle Partners, who together currently own 5,889,093 shares of Multi-Color Corporation common stock, representing approximately 28.7 percent of Multi-Color Corporation’s outstanding shares, have each separately entered into a voting and support agreement to vote its shares in favor of the transaction as provided in each agreement.

The Multi-Color Corporation Board has unanimously recommended that all of Multi-Color Corporation’s shareholders vote to approve and adopt the merger agreement at an upcoming special meeting of Multi-Color Corporation’s shareholders.

LABL closed at $48.55.


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Top Stories for weekend of February 22

U.S. extends trade talk deadline with China

As a result of these very… productive talks, I will be delaying the U.S. increase in tariffs now scheduled for March 1.

1. Using his Twitter account, President Donald Trump said that, “I am pleased to report that the U.S. has made substantial progress in our trade talks with China on important structural issues including intellectual property protection, technology transfer, agriculture, services, currency, and many other issues.

Assuming both sides make additional progress, we will be planning a Summit for President Xi and myself, at Mar-a-Lago, to conclude an agreement. A very good weekend for U.S. & China!”

2. Kraft Heinz (KHC) has tapped investment bank Credit Suisse to review options for its Maxwell House coffee business, which could include a potential sale, CNBC’s Lauren Hirsch reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Based off valuations for other sales of consumer brands, a sale could fetch a price of at least $3B, sources said.

3. While investors are cheering indications of progress being made toward a resolution of trade issues between China and the U.S., the battle for tech supremacy between the two global superpowers shows few signs of abating, Reshma Kapadia wrote in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Global chip makers remain highly reliant on China, which makes just 30% of the chips it actually needs, the publication noted.

Companies with revenue exposure to china include Qualcomm (QCOM), Micron (MU), Marvell Technology (MRVL), Broadcom (AVGO), NXP Semiconductors (NXPI), AMD (AMD), Maxim Integrated Devices (MXIM), Applied Materials (AMAT), Intel (INTC), Xilinx (XLNX), Skyworks (SWKS), Nvidia (NVDA), Analog Devices (ADI), Lam Research (LRCX), and KLA-Tencor (KLAC).

How to train your dragon top the box office, Stockwinners

4. Comcast (CMCSA; CMCSK) subsidiary Universal’s “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” won the weekend with a franchise-best launch of $55.5M from 4,259 theaters in North America, the top opening of the year so far. Overseas, the threequel earned another $34.7M from 53 market for a foreign total of $216.9M and $274.9M globally. The movie sports an audience grade of A and a 92% Rotten Tomatoes score.

5. Altria Group’s (MO) and WellCare Health (WCG) saw positive mentions in Barron’s, while Windstream (WIN) was mentioned cautiously.

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Kraft Heinz shares tumble 28 percent

Kraft Heinz says SEC probing procurement accounting policies

The company (KHC) said in a filing it received a subpoena in October 2018 from the SEC associated with an investigation into the company’s procurement area, more specifically the company’s accounting policies, procedures, and internal controls related to its procurement function, including, but not limited to, agreements, side agreements, and changes or modifications to its agreements with its vendors.

Kraft Heinz shares tumble 28% on SEC investigation, Dividends cut, Stockwinners

Kraft Heinz confirms quarterly dividend cut to 40c from 62.5c per share

The Board of Directors of The Kraft Heinz Company declared a regular quarterly dividend of 40c per share of common stock payable on March 22 to stockholders of record as of March 8.

This represents a reduction of 22.5c from the company’s previous quarterly dividend of 62.5c.

“We believe this action will help us accelerate our deleveraging plan, provide us strategic advantage through a stronger balance sheet, support commercial investments and set a payout level that can both grow over time and accommodate additional divestitures.

By doing this we can improve our growth and returns over time,” said Kraft Heinz CEO Bernardo Hees.

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Buffett loses $4.4billion on Friday, See Stockwinners

Warren’s Loss

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owned 325,634,818 shares of Kraft Heinz as of Dec. 31, according to the latest 13-F filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That represented about 26.7% of the shares outstanding, while the value of the holding was just under 8% of Berkshire’s total equity holdings.

If Berkshire’s stake remained intact, it would be worth about $4.4 billion less than it was the day before. And you thought you had a bad day in the market?!?

Berkshire’s stake in Kraft Heinz has been the same since the third quarter of 2015, according to SEC filings.

Before that, filings showed ownership of just 192,666 shares of Kraft Foods Group Inc. and 578,000 shares of Mondelez.

Since Sept. 30, 2015, the stock has now plummeted 50.9%. That indicates Berkshire’s investment has lost $11.7 billion in principal value since then, including an $11.3 billion loss in 2018 alone.

KHC is down 28% to $34.75.

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Achieve Life Sciences higher on smoking data

Achieve Life Sciences announces final data from cytisinicline study

Achieve Life Sciences (ACHV) announced final data from their Phase I/II multi-dose, pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics, or PK/PD, clinical study of cytisinicline in smokers.

The study evaluated the repeat-dose PK and PD effects of 1.5 mg and 3 mg cytisinicline in 26 healthy volunteer smokers when administered over the standard 25-day course of treatment.

Smokers in the study had a mean age of 39 years, smoked on average 17.2 cigarettes a day, and were not required to quit smoking or have a predetermined quit date while on study.

All subjects had a significant and immediate reduction in cigarettes smoked within 2 days of initiating cytisinicline treatment.

By Day 26, subjects had an average 80% reduction in cigarettes smoked, 82% reduction in expired carbon monoxide, and 46% had stopped smoking.

The biochemically verified smoking cessation rates were 39% and 54% in the 1.5 mg and 3.0 mg cytisinicline treated groups, respectively.

The PK results indicated expected increases in plasma concentration between the standard 1.5 mg and higher 3.0 mg doses of cytisinicline with no evidence of drug accumulation.

Cytisinicline at either dose was well tolerated with only transient, mild-to-moderate headache as the most common adverse event, which was not treatment limiting. No adverse events were severe, serious, or led to withdrawal from the study.

Cindy Jacobs, CMO at Achieve commented, “Given the short 25-day treatment period, the abstinence rates observed are impressive, particularly since subjects were not required to commit to quitting and received minimal behavioral support during the study. These results continue to support our belief that cytisinicline could be a well-tolerated and effective potential treatment option for the millions of people who are battling nicotine addiction.”

ACHV closed at $1.81, it last traded at $2.88.

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Bristol-Myers comments on Celgene’s purchase

Bristol-Myers sees ‘meaningful financial benefits’ from Celgene transaction.

Bristol-Myers treatment for colorectal cancer approved, Stockwinners

Bristol Meyers Comments on Celgene purchase, Stockwinners

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) said an updated its investor presentation about the Celgene (CELG) transaction.

The company said, “The Celgene transaction is the natural next step in Bristol-Myers Squibb’s proven strategy that has consistently delivered results for over a decade.

Through a disciplined approach to driving innovation, focusing on high-value opportunities and sourcing innovation externally to complement its internal portfolio and pipeline, Bristol-Myers Squibb has generated consistently strong growth and increased its dividend for 10 consecutive years.

The combination with Celgene will create a leading biopharma with increased scale, while maintaining the same agility and a focus on delivering for patients in core disease areas of high-unmet medical need.

The pipeline of the combined company provides significant near-, medium- and long-term opportunities for value creation. Bristol-Myers Squibb is acquiring Celgene’s robust and complementary pipeline at an attractive price.

In addition to six expected near-term product launches representing more than $15B in revenue potential, the combination will greatly increase Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Phase I and II assets, which will provide the next set of registrational opportunities in core therapeutic areas.

With an expanded set of scientific platforms and research capabilities, Bristol-Myers Squibb will be well positioned to discover and develop highly innovative medicines and accelerate these new options to patients through one of the highest-performing commercial organizations in the industry.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is well positioned for 2025 and beyond with continued leadership across Oncology and a diversified portfolio of assets.

The combined company will have a broad, balanced and earlier life-cycle marketed portfolio with a significantly higher number of opportunities across multiple diseases to drive the growth of Bristol-Myers Squibb in the second half of the decade. These opportunities will support financial strength for continued investment and innovation.

The Celgene transaction is expected to generate meaningful financial benefits for all stockholders.

With more than $45B of expected free cash flow generation over the first three full years post-closing, the combination will enable rapid debt reduction to de-lever the balance sheet and strengthen Bristol-Myers Squibb’s credit profile.

Bristol-Myers Squibb expects to realize run-rate cost synergies of approximately $2.5B by 2022 from the combination, and the combined company is expected to grow revenue and EPS every year through 2025.”

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Merck reports positive results of its renal cell carcinoma drug

Merck presents results from Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 study

Merck presents results from Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 study, Stockwinners
Merck presents results from Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 study, Stockwinners

Merck (MRK) announced presentation of the full results from the pivotal Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 trial investigating KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, in combination with Pfizer’s (PFE) Inlyta, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, for the first-line treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma at the 2019 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium.

Merck's anti-PD-1 therapy works in combination with Pfizer's (PFE) Inlyta, Stockwinners

Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy works in combination with Pfizer’s (PFE) Inlyta

This is the first combination regimen to significantly improve overall survival, progression-free survival and objective response rate compared to sunitinib.

Results were consistent across all IMDC subgroups, including favorable, intermediate and poor risk groups, and regardless of PD-L1 expression.

As previously announced, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted priority review for a supplemental Biologics License Application for #KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib for the first-line treatment of patients with advanced RCC based on the results of KEYNOTE-426, and has set a Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or target action, date of June 20, 2019.

Findings from the first interim analysis showed KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib reduced the risk of death by 47% – significantly improving OS compared to sunitinib.

For the dual primary endpoint of PFS, the KEYTRUDA combination showed a reduction in the risk of progression of disease or death of 31% compared to sunitinib.

In the study, the ORR was 59.3% for patients who received KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib and 35.7% for those who received sunitinib, with a complete response rate of 5.8% and 1.9% and a partial response rate of 53.5% and 33.8%, for patients receiving the KEYTRUDA combination or sunitinib, respectively.

Median duration of response was not reached in the KEYTRUDA combination arm and was 15.2 months in the sunitinib arm. The results for OS, PFS and ORR were consistent across all IMDC risk groups and seen regardless of PD-L1 expression.

The observed adverse event profile was as expected based on the known profiles of KEYTRUDA and axitinib.

There was a higher incidence of grade 3 or 4 liver enzyme elevation with KEYTRUDA plus axitinib than previously observed with each agent as monotherapy.

Merck has filed these data with regulatory authorities worldwide.

Merck has an extensive clinical development program in RCC and is advancing multiple potential registration-enabling studies with KEYTRUDA, as monotherapy and in combination with other treatments, including KEYNOTE-564 and KEYNOTE-581.

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Rig counts rise!

Baker Hughes reports U.S. rig count up 2 to 1,051 rigs

The international offshore rig count for April 2018 was 194. Stockwinners
The U.S. rig count rises to 1,051

Baker Hughes (BHGE) reports that the U.S. rig count is up 2 rigs from last week to 1,051 rigs, with oil rigs up 3 to 857 and gas rigs down 1 to 194.

The U.S. Rig Count is up 76 rigs from last year’s count of 975, with oil rigs up 59 and gas rigs up 17.

The U.S. Offshore Rig Count is up 2 rigs to 21 and up 3 rigs year-over-year.

The Canada Rig Count is down 16 rigs from last week to 224, with oil rigs down 6 to 152 and gas rigs down 10 to 72.

The Canada Rig Count is down 94 rigs from last year’s count of 318, with oil rigs down 66 and gas rigs down 28.

USO is up 12 cents to $11.60.

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